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Decoy Damsel

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"And as if that wasn't bad enough, you're not even my type!"
"While I went through this basement looking for loose dollars, I ran into a beautiful princess. She looked pretty happy where she was, but even so, I figured she'd give me the $105 I needed after a daring Bubble Rescue. I had no idea it was all an elaborate trap. That "helpless princess" turned into some kind of coneheaded bird/starfish thing hell-bent on destroying me. I knew from high school, college, and summer Adventure Camp that you couldn't trust women, but Nintendo had always been a place where they made sense."

Bob the adventuring hero is approached by Alice, who is in some kind of trouble. Her village is being ravaged by a monster, or she's being forced into marriage against her will. Bob, like a good hero, goes to help her... except, whoops! It was all a lie. Alice isn't in trouble; she's the mastermind, and Bob just walked straight into her Evil Plan.

This is when a seeming Damsel in Distress is luring the hero in for her own ends, usually by playing on his heroism (and sometimes his lust for her). Just about Always Female. Note the damsel doesn't need to be the mastermind behind this, or even existant (illusions count). Compare Deliberately Distressed Damsel, Femme Fatale, False Innocence Trick, Honey Trap, Luring in Prey, Wounded Gazelle Gambit and Literal Maneater. Also see Using You All Along.

Due to the nature of the trope, spoilers ahead.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • In Brave10, Kamanosuke pretends to be a hurt woman needing help across the suspension bridge. In reality, he's luring people there to rob and kill them at a location that gives him the advantage.
  • Minatsuki "Hummingbird" Takami from Deadman Wonderland. She plays up her Shrinking Violet and Innocent Flower Girl role for all it's worth when she's matched to fight Ganta; she acts like she's horrified by the violence, and adds in some clumsiness and sexual tension to really throw him off. Not only was it a complete act, she's crazy as hell, was totally broken by her Dark and Troubled Past, and ended up in prison for a very good reason.
  • Cross Ange: In Episode 7, Ange receives (thanks to Momoka) a message from her younger sister Sylvia calling for her help. Ange escapes from Arzenal and heads to rescue her, only to find out on arrival it was a trap and her sister was in league with their brother Julio the whole time.
  • An episode of Digimon Adventure 02 had Daisuke against a Sadistic Choice to save one of the other four Digidestined/Digimon pairs (in an Unwilling Suspension, no less). As it turns out, Daisuke said he couldn't do it and offered to be captured instead... and then he stalled and revealed a mind-controlled shapeshifter Digimon was trying to lure him into a trap.
  • Lily is introduced as such in the Fatal Fury first OVA. In a subversion, it's not really by choice because not only she's a little girl, but Geese is forcing her to play the role to get his rival Jeff Bogard killed. And poor Lily never forgives herself for that.
  • In Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid, Yu Lan does this to one of Mithril's agents when he "rescues" her. Turns out that she was with Amalgam, and had been disguising herself as one of the ambassadors who were kidnapped in a hostage situation. It's obvious before the poor sap got his throat slit open that he was very satisfied with having rescued such a beautiful Damsel in Distress. She even gives him a flirty, appreciative look after he unties her.
  • Happened to Muroku in one chapter/episode of Inuyasha in which said damsel turned out to be a huge preying mantis wearing the skin of a human girl.
  • One episode of Nightwalker has Shido trapped in a well with another monster and a young girl that has fallen in with them. After much of the episode was a tense stand off between the two, Shido manages to win. Only for the girl to reveal she was a (supposedly benevolent) vampire herself and runs off into the night before the protagonists can do anything.
  • In Ratman, main character Shuto is tricked into joining the "evil" organization Jackal when his classmate, Mirea Mizushima, is abducted by them. Not only is she the little sister of Jackal's leader, but was the one who suggested that they recruit Shuto to be inducted as the titular Ratman. It's ultimately a Subverted Trope, however, as she's a genuine Nice Girl and Jackal's members are more Anti-Villains than anything. Plus, by becoming Ratman, Shuto is able to (sort of) live his childhood dream of being a superhero.
  • In one episode of Sailor Moon, Zoicite seeks to lure out Tuxedo Mask by pretending to be Sailor Moon and "rescue" people, and then he makes it look like he's captured. He then attacks Tuxedo Mask when Tux tries to save him, thinking he's Sailor Moon. When Tuxedo Mask releases him, he stabs him In the Back.
  • In an early episode of Samurai Flamenco, the title character stumbles across a young woman being mugged. After he rescues her, the woman promptly turns on him and reveals that the "mugging" was just a ruse to lure him there so the thugs could capture him. The woman ends up Bound and Gagged while her goons are given a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by Flamenco Girl for their troubles.
  • In the finale of Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Arsene puts her civilian identity Henriette in a Death Trap to force Milky Homes back into competency. In a poignant twist, the death trap is real: If her Worthy Opponent is no longer worthy, Arsene doesn't want to be saved.
  • There's an entire village of these in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, all under Guame's control. They fool every single male on the Dai-Gurren (except for Leeron). Subverted though, it was against their will and they're more then happy to help the team once Guame is forced to retreat.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul Jack, there's Minami, who, as a relatively powerful ghoul, was never really in any danger from the weaker ghoul who attacked them. In reality they'd only been pretending to be a human Damsel in Distress in order to get close to Taishi and Arima.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Carla comes to Leon begging for help to save her family from Sky Pirates after being Trapped in Villainy by an Alpha Bitch Earl's daughter who colludes with said pirates. This bait is especially tempting because of Leon's struggles against becoming an Old Maid in his kingdom's Matriarchy and it presents a potential way out. However, Leon can see through this facade, in part thanks to Media Transmigration foreknowledge, but goes along with it in the hopes of getting a powerful item, exposing Carla in front of her parents, making her break down crying and spill everything, and making her a pariah until Marie saves Carla and makes her a member of her entourage to annoy Leon, Carla acting as a Reformed Bully since.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL features an extended Rare Male Example. When Ray first appears, he quickly strikes up a Birds of a Feather friendship with Yuma, and even helps in fighting the Barians. After several episodes as a supporting character, he gets kidnapped by the villain Vector, prompting Yuma and co. to go rescue him. However, then it turns out that Vector was Ray the whole time, and he gleefully rubs in that the "Ray" persona was a complete fabrication to lure the heroes into a trap (well, that and For the Evulz).

  • This fantasy-art piece combines this trope's "Please Rescue Me!" premise with a Chest Monster, via a giant fish monster using a lure shaped like a (drowning) human's hand.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Astro City story, the Apollo Eleven rescue a family whose boat capsized in stormy weather off the coast of South Carolina. Unfortunately, it's a ploy by Pyramid to infiltrate their base with Spy Bots and steal their secrets.
  • In an Annual strip for The Dandy Winker Watson travels back to the Middle Ages and after realising how much the work, fun and food are terrible, he comes across a Princess who was trapped on an island in the middle of a lake by the Sheriff. After he rescues her, Winker asks why she was trapped there, to which the woman replies “Witches can’t swim. She then reveals her true for as Snydella the Evil Witch and starts transforming everyone into objects. Thankfully, it was All Just a Dream.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: In "The Ikons of Ikammanen" (#1-2), Edith Dunne appears to be an dorkily cute Damsel in Distress. However, this is all an act and she is ultimately a coldhearted and calculating bitch, who arranged the murder of her brother in order to propel Indy into aiding her in her quest to obtain the eponymous artifacts.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992), Link stumbles into an oasis from where Zelda is tied up with vines — but she turns out to be a Wizzrobe in disguise, who promptly ties up Link and conjures Vitreous from the swamp to devour him. This is similar to the ploy used by Blind the Thief in the SNES game.
  • Ava Lord from the Sin City story "A Dame to Kill For", as befitting of Basin City's resident Femme Fatale.
  • In Thorgal issue Arachnea, Thorgal is trown into the lair of the Giant Spider Arachnea and sentenced to mate with her. He stumbles upon a distressed girl named Maika and they both try to leave the place. As it turns out, Maika is one of Arachnea's spawn who disguised itself in order to lure the hero into a trap.
  • During her "field test" (i.e. kill everyone at a presidential candidate's party), pre-teen X-23 disguised herself as the wounded Sole Survivor of the attack. She fooled Captain America. After learning the truth, Steve spent years tracking her down hoping to bring her to justice.
  • XXXenophile: "Rescue 911 A.D." features a beautiful damsel pretending to be Chained to a Rock in order to lure adventurers into a trap (of sorts) in a dragon's lair.

    Comic Strips 
  • Candorville has an accidental example in a flashback. Artemis Kenchu, self-proclaimed vampire hunter, slays several vampires in New Orleans and rescues the girl they tried to kill. As it turns out, she's a vampire too, but she's so evil they decided to kill her, and he's about to be her new servant.
  • In one panel of The Far Side, two dragons who wanted to capture knights, likely to eat them, discuss the fact that they may need to capture a real life princess to replace their decoy, basically a pole with a ball that has a crudely drawn face on it, and a cone hat on top is not doing the trick.
  • In one Nodwick strip in Dragon, the heroes find what appears to be a little girl lost in the woods and, since little girls lost in the woods in a D&D world are always shapeshifted monsters or petulent gods, send Nodwick to ask her if there's any way of getting out of this alive. She agrees to let them live in exchange for all their loot, bemoaning that mortals have got wise to the trick. the final panel reveals that, while she is a decoy damsel, she's not the kind they think — she's a Little Miss Con Artist exploiting the trope.

    Fan Works 
  • In the HTTYD/Encanto crossover The Dragon and the Butterfly, the Madrigals fight the Vikings of Berk over the unconscious Hiccup (It Makes Sense in Context). Mirabel convinces Camilo to impersonate Hiccup while she gets the real Hiccup to safety.
  • The protagonist of With This Ring finds Nylor Truggs in a warehouse, bound and guarded by The Brain and a number of metahuman thugs. Upon going to the rescue, Paul soon collapses under the influence of the telepathic weapon Truggs was using (disguised as The Brain), and Truggs steals his power ring.

    Film — Animation 
  • Harley Quinn did this in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, pretending to be a mugging victim so Robin could come to her rescue. When his back was turned, she knocked him out with an oversized mallet.
  • Meg in Disney's Hercules is genuinely in trouble the first time Hercules helps her out, but she later plays this role to lure Hercules to a rock slide and a hydra, with help from Pain and Panic as Decoy Kids. She's not happy about having to do it, and it isn't her idea, but she did make a Deal with the Devil and cannot go against her employer, Hades.
  • Inverted by Tangled: Mother Gothel sets up a situation where Rapunzel is the damsel, and she the rescuer, to lure her back.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Black Widow's introduction scene in The Avengers (2012). As Joss Whedon commented, "This is my entire career in one scene: Look, she's helpless! No, she's kicking their asses!". Bit of a subversion to this one though as no one was coming to save Black Widow and she was just undercover at the time. Once Coulson phoned her and told her of the upcoming emergency, she had to cut the ruse early.
  • Caleb in Bordello of Blood who's been missing for most of the film. When Catherine and Rafe suddenly get a call from him all of a sudden pleading for help. Rafe's naturally a bit suspicious due to already having experienced some weird things during his investigation to find him. When the two reach the warehouse Caleb's in, they find him slumped over on the ground. Once Rafe gets close, Caleb suddenly gets up but his face is now more mutated with more bat like features and he's now bearing fangs. Granted this one is pretty obvious since the last we saw Caleb before this point was at the beginning of the movie as Lilith, the film's villain, approached him not long after she had killed his friend and him unaware that she and the hookers of the bordello were vampires (though he did spot the bite marks on the girl she was with, but didn't get the chance to question it).
  • Done in both Count Yorga films:
    • The first ended in a climax with Micheal the only hunter left standing to confront Yorga to save his girlfriend, Donna. He manages to kill him and ward off his surviving brides. Only to find out too late that Donna was turned before he reached her and the film ends with her barring her fangs and attacking him.
    • In the second film, one of the protagonists, Jason, is told where his girlfriend, Ellen, (who had gone missing) is by Tommy. However he's unaware Tommy is under Yorga's control. So when Jason does indeed find Ellen. She's long since been bitten and made into one of Yorga's bride. The newly vamped Ellen simply laughs at him as her fellow brides jump him.
  • In The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, Thomas believes that he must awaken Briar Rose with True Love's Kiss in order to break the Curse on his family and banish the Veiled Demon. However, Briar Rose actually is the curse on the family, and the Veiled Demon is there to prevent her from being awoken: something Thomas only discovers too late.
  • A variant is done by Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. While she never actually traps anyone, she has no problem pretending to be a scared, helpless victim, if it means the police will overlook her long enough to make her getaway. Played straighter by love interest Miranda Tate who is really Talia al Ghul, and conspiring with Bane.
  • Ava in Ex Machina. Caleb comes to see her as a Damsel in Distress, but while she is certainly imprisoned and abused she is far less helpless than she lets on – having played this card to convince Caleb to free her. The twist is, Nathan expects her to do this, as doing so is the ultimate test to see if she can perform the human act of deception. It works.
  • Elsa in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Albeit she's not the Big Bad. And she explains that she isn't really a Nazi, but just wants recognition for finding the Holy Grail and believes that the Nazis are the best equipped to help her do that. Later, however, she actually becomes a true Damsel in Distress when she takes the grail past the seal. This causes the temple to collapse and she nearly falls into a chasm, but Indy grabs her in time. Despite the danger of falling, she insists on reaching for the grail below her. Indy can’t keep her gloved hand from slipping and she plunges to her Death by Materialism.
  • Saw:
    • Combined with a Sequencing Deception in Saw II. Amanda is set up to be the Final Girl of the Nerve Gas House to Daniel's Final Boy, with Eric seemingly coming to find and rescue them. By the time Eric enters were Amanda and Daniel were last seen, however, it turns out that their presence was at different times, and Eric is promptly anesthetized and locked by Amanda, who reveals herself as Jigsaw's protége at the house.
    • Saw IV: As Rigg is first instructed, Hoffman is apparently captured alongside Eric in a trap by Art that will kill both of them in quick succession if he doesn't come in a given time. While said thing does happen due to Rigg not getting that he had to wait during said time before being able to enter the room Eric and Hoffman were trapped in without problem, Hoffman takes off his restraints, with an accompanying flashback clarifying that he was the one in control of the room, not Art.
  • The Silence (2019). The cultists send a young girl to the house, knowing they are bound to let her in. They quickly realise the cult sent her, but are still surprised when the mobile phones she has strapped under her body start ringing, drawing the vesps to attack the house.
  • The titular characters in Tragedy Girls do this in the opening; specifically, they do it to capture a serial killer to use as a patsy for their own crimes.
  • Elektra King in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, an oil heiress who conspires with the terrorist and her one-time captor (and current lover), Renard, to cause an oil shortage by blowing up a Russian pipeline with a nuclear detonation and thereby substantially increase her own oil holdings. She manipulates Bond, but he ultimately sees beyond her deception and manages to confront her.

  • Dilvish, the Damned is a collection of fantasy stories written by Roger Zelazny. In one of the stories, Dilvish hears a Damsel in Distress. His Genre Savvy sidekick, Black, a demon horse, warns him about this, stating that it is the oldest trick in the book.
  • In a Dresden Files short story Backup, Harry runs into this. Unfortunately, the person who knows she is one (Thomas) cannot tell him she's playing him, for a variety of reasons. This leads to Thomas having to frantically run around behind the scenes making everything work out, including letting Harry throw him into a wall.
  • In Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Daystar meets a picture-perfect damsel-in-distress who attempts to trick him into giving her the Sword of the Sleeping King. While she is in fact distressed, she's also being manipulated by his pursuers.
  • Senna from Everworld. Played with because she really is being pursued by villains, but she has full intentions of becoming the Big Bad herself, and is manipulating the main characters to achieve that goal. Made worse because they know this but really have no choice but help her, since she's a Barrier Maiden and letting Loki or Ka Anor get her is potentially even worse. Also, she's pretty much their only chance of getting back home.
  • In the Stephen King and Joe Hill short story Into the Tall Grass, a pair of siblings driving across the United States stop near a field with unusually tall grass when they hear a child's voice calling for help from within the field. Figuring that the child got lost in the grass and can't see high enough to get his bearings and find his way out, they go in looking for him. Trouble is that the center of the field has an Artifact of Doom that drives people mad, and has a tendency to use cries for help to lure more people into entering the field, after which it becomes a Mobile Maze that is almost impossible to escape. The boy who acted as the damsel for them reveals that his family also heard a child's voice coming from the grass, and that's how they became trapped inside.
  • The Jack Reacher story Echo Burning plays with this - there's an on-again, off-again question about the leading lady's actual motives for recruiting Reacher.
  • During the Mana Mutation Summit in Journey to Chaos, an Outlaw Couple try this on Nolien by the "Bonnie" of the couple pretending to be a maid accosted by a soldier. The "Cylde" throws his fight with Nolien so his partner can perform a Deadly Hug. Unfortunately for them, Nolien's mentor warned him about this trick and the "Bonnie" is put into genuine distress by Nolien.
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table: In the tale of Gawain and Ragnell, a damsel comes to King Arthur's court to seek help. He vows to help and follows her to Tarn Wathelyne, but she is actually working for Morgana le Fay and leading him into a trap.
  • The Labours of Hercules: In the short story "The Stymphalian Birds", a Con Woman claims that her husband is abusing her and arranges for the mark save her from him in a way that involves giving her a lot of money. This works so well that she then claims that someone is blackmailing her over the way they dealt with her husband. Unfortunately for her, the mark feels out of his depth and decides to involve Hercule Poirot.
  • In the book The Last Knight, the hero rescues a woman from captivity in a tower, only to discover that she was being held there as a murder suspect. The rest of the book is about him trying to recapture her and bring her to justice.
  • C. L. Moore's 1934 story "Shambleau" - generally acknowledged as epoch-making in the history of Science Fiction - begins in what seems a classical Damsel in Distress situation: The protagonist, space adventurer Northwest Smith, sees a "sweetly-made girl" pursued by a lynch mob intent on killing her and intervenes to save her, but finds her not a girl nor a human being at all, but a disguised alien creature, predatory and highly dangerous. Soon, Smith himself needs rescuing and barely escapes with his life.
  • In Replica, the evil Annie Perraut was able to fool Andy just by Clark Kenting (as all characters are clones, she looks like the prisoners). Basically, he wanted a helpless Amy who would see him as her savior, rather than the proud one who was his girlfriend once.
  • Mikhail Kuzmin's short story The Rules of Knighthood is entirely about the failure of said rules. The biggest failure is as follows: the knight Ulrich stumbles upon a trial. Apparently a lovely gentle woman is about to lose all her lands and belongings to an ugly old man. Ulrich stands for the lady, wins the trial for her and rides forth. Later he learns from a villager that Dame Editha is a thief, a witch, and a murderess, while the old man was the Cool Old Guy liked by everyone. We are deliberately left with No Ending, so it's never known how the story with Editha ends.
  • Shows up every now and again in The Squire's Tales - the knights are sworn to defend those in distress, and several enterprising women take advantage of this with an affecting story (and occasionally a low-cut dress) to secure a champion when in truth they're the aggressor in the matter, rather than the victim. Generally it's tried on young, inexperienced knights (such as the woman who sent Dinadan to challenge a knight whose lands she wanted, on the pretence that he'd stolen them from her), but even Gawain is caught by Lady Philomena and stuck fighting Ywain until Luneta manages to rig the contest.
  • Older Than Radio: Milady De Winter in The Three Musketeers tries this occasionally, but eventually shows her true colours as a manipulative, murderous superspy.
  • In The Vampire Chronicles - Interview with the Vampire, the Undead Child Claudia likes to hunt by pretending to be lost and afraid until some kindly stranger offers to help her find her way home. As soon as they pick her up, the fangs come out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Alias Smith and Jones episode "How to Rob a Bank in One Hard Lesson", Heyes and Curry are hired for protection by two women, who are actually luring them to an isolated spot so that they can hold Curry hostage while Heyes helps them rob a bank.
  • In Buffy's spinoff series, Angel, this trope is played straight by Jasmine-possessed-Cordelia, who seduces Connor so they can conceive a baby powerful enough for Jasmine to fully incarnate herself in.
  • Arrow. A flashback scene to when he was marooned on the island and hunted by mercenaries shows Oliver Queen coming across another ex-prisoner who had been tied up and severely beaten, but managed to escape. Although he pleads with Oliver to at least untie him, Oliver figures he can't take the risk that it's not a trick. Sure enough the same man later turns up as one of the mercenary goons, and Oliver has to be restrained from attacking him on the spot as he was carrying a lot of guilt for leaving him behind.
  • Blake's 7. In "Assassin", our heroes discover a Professional Killer known only as Cancer has been hired to eliminate them. They decide to strike first and board Cancer's spaceship, finding a large steely-eyed man with a Beard of Evil dressed in black leather uttering death threats, and a Hysterical Woman he's keeping as his Sex Slave. Turns out the tearful damsel is Cancer and the man is her slave, a male actor that she purchased to play the role in order to lure her targets into a trap.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The show famously pulled this off in its first scene, playing on a horror movie stereotype—a blonde, timid Catholic school girl sneaks into a scary place with a bad boy. The twist? She's a vampire (Darla, specifically), and the boy doesn't live long enough to see the opening credits.
    • In the second episode, Xander's best friend Jesse is nabbed by the Master's goons. By the time they free him in the sewers, he's already been vamped.
    • The Anointed One tries this on Buffy in "Prophecy Girl", standing on the school lawn asking for help. Buffy sees right through him.
    • A whimpering brunette vampire who impersonates Cordelia in "When She Was Bad."
    • Inverted with Faith's introductory scene, when the Scoobies rush in to 'rescue' her from a disco vampire.
    • Buffy herself does this to lure out vampires; there's a reason the Slayer is always an attractive and vulnerable-looking female, after all.
  • Burn Notice:
    • Fiona has been known to pull a heroic version; also, Michael fell for one in the episode "False Flag". Atypically, it wasn't her he wanted to protect but the supposed son her supposed abusive husband (actually a mob witness she was out to kill) had supposedly kidnapped—a bit of a sore spot with him.
    • Michael ended up the victim of one again in the season 5 episode "Dead To Rights". Larry's "hostage" Anson turned out to be the one behind everything that had happened to Michael in the entire series.
  • This was a regular part of the stunts on Candid Camera. In one instance, a frail blond Damsel in Distress would be deposited on some street corner with two large suitcases. The suitcases looked identical, but one was empty and the other would be filled with concrete, weighing at least 200 pounds. When some big strong man approached, she would ask him to help with her suitcases ... then she would pick up the empty suitcase and walk away, while the hidden camera recorded the reaction of the poor schmo as he tried to pick up the other suitcase.
  • Saffron from Firefly is like this, tricking the heroes into thinking the town they just helped is giving her to them as a gift. The crew isn't sure what to do with her, but decide to take her with them, since the town is essentially treating her like property. It eventually turns out she's a Femme Fatale who wanted to hijack their ship.
  • Halo (2022). In "Emergence", Makee sends a transmission from a disabled Covenant corvette, pretending to be a prisoner left behind when the ship was abandoned so the UNSC will take her aboard, unaware that she has a disembodied Lekgolo worm swarm waiting for them. The crew isn't completely gullible, however; suspecting a trap, there are a dozen Marines on standby, and she isn't formally welcomed aboard until she's been searched for weapons. Plus the moment she springs her trap, the captain orders any useful data wiped from the ship's computer, making her attack worthless.
  • In the Legend of the Seeker episode "Bounty", Richard helps a young woman who claims her brother was captured by monsters, who actually wants to turn Richard in for the reward.
  • NUMB3RS: One shows up in "Tabu". At first she appears to be kidnapped by an environmental group as leverage against her businessman father, but then she starts shooting up the FBI with the gang and it's revealed that she co-opted the gang as part of a giant tantrum against her father.
  • Person of Interest features a variation. Because The Machine won't tell whether the POI is a victim or perpetrator, this effect occurs even if unintended. Several future Big Bads are helped by Team Machine unknowingly based on the assumption that they appear to be a victim. Root is the only straight example in that she hires HR to kill one of her fake identities knowing that it would lead John Reese and Harold Finch to save her and in the process expose Finch, the Machine's creator.
  • Camille pulls this off in Power Rangers Jungle Fury, dressed in civvys and pretending to be attacked by her own Mooks in order to lure the Rhino Ranger into a trap.
    • Conversely, in Power Rangers Dino Charge the heroes pull this off to try to find a new Purple Ranger. The idea is that whoever saves Kendall from a staged construction accident is a potential candidate. It doesn't go too well, because they're all too selfish or dumb to be trusted with such power.
  • In one episode of Psych, Shawn and Gus are hired by a woman who wants them to contact her dead husband from beyond the grave and find out where he hid the money from a robbery because she thinks his old partners are after her. It turns out the widow was the mastermind of the robbery.
  • This kinda, sorta happens in Robin Hood in which Guy of Gisborne is threatening Robin and Marian whilst they're hiding in a tree. The two of them play on Guy's Unrequited Love for Marian and pretend that Robin is holding her hostage, allowing Guy to play the hero and "rescue" Marian whilst Robin makes his escape. It's not a totally straight version of this trope considering that they're not trying to "trap" Guy, but they do successfully trick him by using Marian as a decoy Damsel in Distress, and it is all her idea.
  • In the Robin of Sherwood episode "The Witch of Elsden", the outlaws find a distressed young woman in the forest who claims that she is fleeing Guy of Gisburne. Will is quite taken with her and seriously put out when it turns out that she is in fact married and has agreed to use her herb magic to help capture the outlaws in return for Gisburne not carrying out his threat to have her burnt as a witch and her husband killed. As she's pretty much a co-erced victim of Gisburne, along with them, the outlaws eventually forgive her deception and she helps them thwart Gisburne's plans in return for them rescuing her husband and getting them both to safety.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Tracy Bell pretends to be helpless with her car broken down by the side of the road to get the vampire to give her a lift so she could behead him.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In "The Murderous Missile", George is held at gunpoint by The Sheriff in order to hold off Wonder Woman. She wipes the floor with them only to be gassed by George. He is thus revealed to be the mastermind of the evil plot.

  • Gryphon: The unnamed woman in the song "Three Jolly Butchers". After Johnson the Butcher rescues her, she summons ten highwaymen to rob Johnson. He is able to fight them off but kills Johnson by stabbing him in the back.

    Music Videos 
  • Zig-Zagged in the video for "Best Friend", and unique in how it's a woman attempting to trap other women. The Supermodel in the video has the ability to shapeshift and steal the features of women she has devoured. First, The Supermodel leans over a sink as if she was feeling ill from the drugs she was taking. When a model she was jealous of comes up and asks her if she's okay The Supermodel pins her against a wall, unhinges her jaws and swallows her alive. Towards the end of the video she does this again, this time during a fashion show. She is slumped over in her dressing room as if feeling unwell, and a woman goes inside to check on her. The video then immediately cuts to The Supermodel's mouth opened nightmarishly wide with the woman who tried to help her's legs sticking out and kicking helplessly as she is Swallowed Whole. What makes this a zig-zag is that she actually is feeling unwell in those instances: it's implied she has to keep feeding in order to stay transformed, and that all the transforming and devouring is taking a toll on her but she uses these vulnerable moments to snare prey, though by the end she barfs up her last victim's dress and chokes to death on it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Detailed in the Werewolf: The Forsaken Night Horrors book, "Bloody" or "Typhoid" Mary is a wide-eyed ingénue running from the clutches of her beastly (no pun intended) family. Taken in by her innocence, her sad story, and her good looks, the Player Characters become her new protectors... just as planned. The real reason for Mary's running away (and the time when the Player Characters encounter her is by no means the first) is she doesn't get enough attention from Daddy... and her idea of having her father prove that he really loves her is having him rip apart an entire pack of unsuspecting Uratha because they're standing in the way of dragging his wayward baby girl home.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations has Lance Amano, a rare male version. He engineered his own kidnapping to get the money he needed to pay off his debt.
  • Arknights:
    • One event in the first season of Integrated Strategies, Ceobe's Fungimist, had you come across a girl in the wilderness begging for help as her leg has gotten caught under a heavy chunk of metal. In reality, she's trying to lure unfortunate passers-by into an ambush, and trying to save her will force you into a difficult battle against a gang of bandits.
    • The second season, Phantom & Crimson Solitaire, features its own version of the encounter; you find a Vampire princess chained to a pillar beneath the castle, who claims to be a prisoner of the Crimson Troupe and that she needs a drop of your blood to escape. Should you approach her, however, she'll effortlessly break the chains on her own and send her demonic underlings after you.
  • You can find and fight a few of these in both Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Interestingly, the second game in the former series has a male version of this in the first dungeon.
  • The Little Girl from the "It's War!" chapter of Conker's Bad Fur Day, who turns out to be an Enfant Terrible who's attached to the level boss, the Experiment.
  • Sayaka Maizono from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. At first, she looks like a cute Idol Singer who's being set up as the love interest for Naegi. Then she reveals herself as desperate and unstable enough to try to murder Leon and betray Naegi by framing him for it... and ends up getting killed instead.
  • A sidequest in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has you dealing with a serial killer that targets the Augmented. Eventually, the next victim ends up being Adam's neighbor Daria, who you follow to find seemingly tied up to a chair and ready to ambush you. However, if you end up following up on a lead discovered via investigation, you can potentially defuse the situation peacefully.
  • Played with in Double Homework. When Tamara sees the protagonist and Johanna fooling around, she starts going out with Dennis in revenge. The protagonist, realizing that Tamara wants him to come after her, goes to the club where the two are having their date and chases Dennis away. Tamara then reveals that she’s attracted to him.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a miscellaneous side quest involves a woman calling herself a "lady in distress" and asks you to help retrieve her ring from a pond, located in a small hole. However, the moment you pick up the ring, she and her partially-invisible archer accomplice will attack you, at which point your character realizes it was all a ruse as part of a robbery.
  • Princess Nehema in Eversion is actually a Lovecraftian horror. Maybe.
  • Zig-zagged with Naminé in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Much of the game involves Sora believing that she's his long-lost Childhood Friend that he promised to protect, and now he has to rescue her from the organization holding her captive. Then he learns the truth: Naminé used her power to change his memories so that he would believe they'd been friends. But as it turns out, she didn't do it entirely of her own volition and really is being held captive by Organization XIII. After Sora defeats Marluxia and Larxene, Naminé promises to restore his real memories.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Blind tries to pull this on Link, disguising himself as one of the maidens he's supposed to be rescuing. Somehow Blind overlooks the fact that all the genuine maidens, including the one he's keeping from Link, are sealed in crystal, which kind of gives him away.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: There's a dungeon in roughly the same location as Blind's Hideout, and just like before, there's a captive who asks you to escort her through the dungeon, basically sending up signal flares for anyone who played ALttP. The captive is completely legit, thus subverting the trope.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: The game pulls this off with four girls in a Ghost Ship who get increasingly Obviously Evil and give Anti-Advice as you "rescue" them.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom:
      • The supposedly-missing Zelda is being spotted by many people all over Hyrule, acting mysteriously, disappearing suddenly, and having a cold air to her. It's actually Phantom Ganon in disguise, intentionally sowing discord and confusion to make things more difficult for Link.
      • Penn's Sidequest at the dueling Peak Stables involves rumors of the Yiga claiming to have kidnapped Zelda and are holding her hostage in a hole in the peaks, and she is indeed there in a cage Link needs to move away with Ultrahand. Or rather there's a Yiga disguised as her, who calls for backup upon revealing herself.
      • After finishing Penn's side quest and going to the Great Plateau where the Old Man was in Breath of the Wild, you'll find Zelda huddled next to a campfire with amnesia. It's actually a Yiga Clan member in disguise hoping to catch Link off-guard, although she'll reveal her true identity if you talk to her while wearing a Yiga Clan uniform. If you talk to her without it, after revealing her true colors, she'll comment that she's surprised you were dumb enough to fall for the disguise twice..
  • One of the traps in the Flash game Lucky Tower is a princess sobbing into her hands. As you approach her, she snaps around and eats you whole.
  • Subverted in Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. Princess Sophia turns out to be an evil demon queen controlling the supposed Big Bad, an outcome hinted at by her profile in the manual. After slaying her, it's revealed by the authority of none other than Death himself that the real Sophia is alive.
  • Metal Gear Solid Mobile has you called into the facility by Victoria Reed, a scientist who's working on Metal Gears. After a while you discover she was actually a computer program designed to lure you into turning off the building's security so terrorists could take over. Then you find out the entire mission is a computer simulation created by the Patriots to study Snake.
  • Milon's Secret Castle: Sometime before the Final Boss, you can encounter what appears to be Queen Eliza. If you reach her area and make contact with her, it turns out to have been one of Mahirito's minions in disguise and attacks you.
  • On the fifth table of Pinball Quest, you defeat four monsters guarding the Princess, only for her to be revealed as a vampire in disguise.
  • In Planescape: Torment, you can have a brief encounter with a woman identified by your Namedar as 'Damsel In Distress'. She will ask you to help rescue her sister, but if you are intelligent enough, you can get her to reveal that it's a trap to lure you into an alley and rob you. Done again in the plane of Baator, where the damsel in distress is a demon in disguise.
  • Munna in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. In an interesting twist, she also manages to trick the protagonist into believing the Pokémon trying to help him, Hydreigon, is actually his enemy.
  • Ironically enough, Elizabeth Greene in [PROTOTYPE]. Obviously, a catatonic woman being held by a morally ambiguous research corporation in cooperation with the Government Conspiracy needs rescuing, right? As soon as Alex shows up to rescue her, she throws him around like a ragdoll and runs off to start the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Luna of Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters fakes her own kidnapping to lure the duo into a trap so that she can clone one of them. Of course, not only does "she" later turn out to be The Dragon to the true Big Bad, "she" is soon revealed to be a robotic puppet.
  • Several frantic woman flagging down help in Red Dead Redemption are actually trying to lure the player into an ambush. Taking out the bandits will usually result in the accomplice begging for mercy, sometimes claiming to have been coerced. The player can let her go, gun her down or lasso her, hogtie her, and leave her on the tracks for an oncoming train.
  • In the sequel to The 7th Guest, The Eleventh Hour, Carl braves the perils of Stauf's mansion to rescue Robin. The twist here is that Robin has already made a deal with Stauf by the time Carl finds her. Choosing her at the end leads to Carl's death.
  • Shining in the Darkness: while you're venturing through the Cave of Truth, you can find Princess Jessa imprisoned. But it's still rather early into the game, so it might be too good to be true. Using the False Idol to release her reveals that it is, indeed, too good to be true: it's a monster disguised as the Princess.
  • Happens in Spelunky, where every level contains a damsel and rescuing them is the main way to recover health. Unsurprisingly, in the hell level, some of them are actually demons.
  • Done in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Amusingly enough, the psychobitch's name is Alice.
  • The twist at the end of the Interactive Fiction game Yes, Another Game with a Dragon!

  • Evil Princess Sara, of 8-Bit Theater. Who's... evil. To be fair with her, she was really kidnapped. Then she noticed how incompetent Garland was...
  • Dracula: Ruler of the Night: The hunters come across Minerva Westenra, Lucy's mother tied up while raiding Carfax Abby in the hopes of taking out Dracula. Finding no bite marks on her, they assume they reached her before she was bitten. They're soon forced to run when Dracula and his brides (which include Lucy now) are active and come after them. While holeing up in the cellar and trying to push their way out from a blocked exit. Harker assure her they'll protect her... only to glance at a nearby reflective surface and see only her clothes floating in the air. Once outed, Minerva forms her fangs and reveals she was turned no sooner than she was kidnapped from her coach ride back to London the night before. Being long dead and beyond the point of saving by then.
  • Girl Genius: Zola's modus operandi. Appears helpless, fluttery, bird-brained, and a trouble magnet. Actually is a pragmatic, grounded con artist, very capable both with a gun and at hand-to-hand, and intelligent enough to out-think several players in Der Kastle.
  • Helping the Princess, a non-evil example.
  • The Pocalypse: the girl "captured" by vampires in scene 26 of chapter 2 "Damsel in Distress" is actually a vampire herself.
  • In Widdershins, Sidney and Harry are tasked by Sidney's friend with finding his missing assistant. He thinks she's been kidnapped, but she's actually the mastermind behind the evil plot of the day.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: Jinx uses voice modulation and a speaker to pretend to be a little girl crying out for help in a burning building full of bombs to lure Enforcers to their deaths.
  • This is how Harley Quinn captures Batman in Batman: The Animated Series episode "Mad Love".
    • In a Crossover with Superman: The Animated Series, Superman sees that Lois is in trouble, and goes to rescue her, only to be captured by Talia al Ghul, who disguised herself as Lois for the purpose of capturing Superman so that her father, Ra's al Ghul could steal his powers.
  • In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Bold Beginnings," a free-wheeling heiress teams up with the villain Cavalier to pull this off for the ransom money her family would provide.
  • The Knights of the Square Table in Blazing Dragons attempt to capture a Robin Hood analogue by dressing Sir Hotbreath (Perhaps the least lady-like knight) as a damsel in distress who has a lot of money to lure the fiend into the trap. It... doesn't work.
  • A rather silly example in Justice League ("Injustice for All"), where the Ultra-Humanite is holding a hostage outside a government building to lure the Justice League there. The hostage turns out to be the Cheetah... which makes one wonder how the authorities who were already there didn't notice that his hostage had fur.
  • In the "Kiss N Tell" episode of The Legend of Zelda (1989) cartoon, Zelda runs into a maiden being attacked by a Gleeok who's ungrateful that a "handsome hero" isn't rescuing her instead. Link shows up shortly afterwards, the Gleeok is defeated, and he is rewarded with a kiss from the maiden... only to find out too late that she's a disguised Gibdo whose kiss turned him into an anthropomorphic frog.
  • In the Punky Brewster Animated Adaptation episode "Punky To The Rescue," the kids are trying to catch a supposed swamp monster they think has taken Henry, Punky's foster dad, captive. Margaux is used as bait with her foot caught in a snare (she's wearing a dress, so she's not hanging upside down). They wind up catching Henry.
  • Done in Samurai Jack, with Aku taking an alluring, yet unconvincing disguise. Jack, to his credit, isn't fooled for a second, and plays along until he has the opportunity to disassemble Aku's plan. To Aku's credit, this worked the first time he tried it. Granted, he was posing as an Action Girl, but she was still in distress.


Video Example(s):


Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Jesse's Rescue]

Scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ep 2 - The Harvest. During a vampire attack in the previous episode, the vampires manage to spirit away Xander and Willow's friend, Jesse to be fed to The Master. The Master refuses due to Darla having already tasted him, but when they find out Jesse knows the slayer. They decide to keep him alive as bait. Indeed Buffy, along with Xander, arrive in the sewers to save him and just to find a way out. Luckily Jesse knows a way of escape. <br><br>

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DecoyDamsel

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